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My work time is almost all at the computer. I've noticed that if I spend all day sitting and working at a computer, I wind up feeling lethargic with strange aches and pains. Not only am I not making any fitness progress, but I actually feel like sitting is causing damage.
After hearing many experts say that sitting for a long time is bad, I decided I should look at a stand-up desk. As I researched the stand-up desk, I came across information about treadmill desks, and decided that was even more interesting. If I wound up not liking walking while computing, I could always just stand at the treadmill desk.
Well, it turns out that walking is way better than standing. When I stand and compute for long I find that I slouch, lean on things, and generally think about the fact that I am standing. When I walk and compute I forget I am walking. My body is busy and walking keeps it in a good posture without thinking about it.
I generally walk at 2.0 mph. I have no problem with typing, programming, and other computer stuff. Even the fairly intensive mouse operations of LabVIEW programming are no problem. It is difficult to write on a piece of paper on the desk while walking, but I don't do much of that.
Things slow down a bit at LabJack around Christmas, so I took the time then to research and build my treadmill desk. I looked at $1500 motorized desks that move up and down, a $550 TrekDesk treadmill desk from Amazon, and various homemade options at instructables.com. The motorized desk was too expensive and still needed something to get a monitor up at the proper height. The TrekDesk had some reviews saying it wiggled and still needed something to get a monitor up at the proper height. Once I saw some of the things people had done at instructables.com, I realized the key was separating the base from the rest of the treadmill, and building a setup with that in mind. I wound up using cheap and simple track shelving from Home Depot. It is very sturdy and lets me put everything at the perfect height.
I bought a 1 year old ... Pro-Form 675E treadmill off craigslist for $300. It is reasonably quiet. It was easy to separate the base, risers, and control console.
In the opposite corner of my office is a normal desk and chair for sitting with another KVM setup (keyboard, video, mouse). Both KVM setups are connected to the same computer, so I can easily move from the treadmill desk to the sitting desk at any time.
When I used to just sit, I had a dual monitor setup with 22" widescreens. When I built my treadmill desk and needed 2 KVMs, that would have meant 4 monitors. I tried a bunch of adapters and splitters, but could not get 4 monitors to work, so instead just got a single 27" widescreen for each KVM. These ViewSonic VA2702W monitors were $260 each at the time (December 2011). The monitors have DVI inputs, and my computer has 1 DVI output and 1 HDMI output, so I bought a 10 foot DVI to DVI cable and a 25 foot HDMI to DVI cable. Windows is set to duplicate, so I see the exact same thing on the 2 monitors.
For keyboard and mouse I got a pair of Logitech Mk520. Both keyboards and both mice wirelessly connect to 1 little USB dongle on the computer. Great range and great battery life.
I am posting this blog entry in mid-June 2012, almost 6 months after setting up the treadmill desk. I work-walked 95.2 miles over 51.2 hours in January, 103.9 miles over 51.9 hours in February, and 46.6 miles over 26.3 hours in March (vacation during 2nd half). No records for April and May, but probably about 40 and 80 miles. So far in June I have 41.8 miles over 20.9 hours. I highly recommend a treadmill desk for anyone that spends much time on a computer.
Future: I would like to "LabJack" the treadmill desk. Plan is to get rid of the control console that came with the treadmill (sitting on a shelf below the keyboard shelf), and instead use a LabJack to connect the computer to the treadmill. Then I can use a program on the computer to control the treadmill and automatically track mileage.
2013-4-18: I generally walk at 2.1 mph these days. The treadmill automatically turns off after 100 minutes, so that works out to exactly 3.5 miles per 100-minute session. Consumer Reports just posted an article about treadmill desks. The article cites some "chilling" statistics saying that "those who sat for a total of eight to 11 hours a day, on average, were 15 percent more likely to die during that time than those who sat four hours or less" and "people who sat 11 hours or more were 40 percent more likely to die".
The U12 has been an absolutely essential piece of hardware in my experimental projects. It's performed exceptionally well and I've recommended the device to several of my colleagues.—Brendon, Electrical Engineer